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Avoiding potential problems with estate plan surrogates

There is a potential "time bomb" hidden in some estate plans in Minnesota. Specifically, a possible source of unexpected problems is the individual named to act on behalf of the person making the estate plan. Actions taken by one or more parties named to oversee an estate could trigger family conflicts or affect the financial security of future generations. Some issues might be avoided or minimized when more thought is given to selecting estate plan surrogates.

Agents, trustees, executors, and financial account and long-term care insurance lapse designees are among the potential surrogates who could be involved with estate planning and probate actions. A potential problem with some of these surrogates is that duties may overlap. This is more likely to happen if designations are made over several years or with specific purposes in mind, such as purchasing insurance. It can also be problematic if individuals are appointed to various roles without being asked first, or if designated surrogates lack the experience or knowledge to carry out their tasks.

Problems with surrogate designations may be avoided when all potential designees are carefully selected and vetted based on specific roles that need to be filled, capabilities, and willingness to assume responsibilities when necessary. However, appointing only family members sometimes sets the stage for conflicts that could escalate into lengthy legal battles, but professionals may not have a full understanding of unique family dynamics. A growing trend with estate planning is to have a combination of family members and professionals in key roles as surrogates.

An attorney with an understanding of estate planning and probate matters may offer advice on selecting surrogates or co-surrogates for important estate roles. In some situations, changes with surrogates may be made to eliminate overlapping roles or transfer duties to more qualified individuals. A lawyer might also be able to address issues related to suspected fraud or abuse of privileges or responsibilities assigned to various designees.

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